Novelist Alan Hollinghurst is the literary bard of modern British gay life. His 1987 debut, The Swimming Pool Library, tells the story of a young gay aristocrat tasked with writing the biography of an elderly gay peer. Set immediately before the onset of the AIDS crisis— during “the last summer of its kind there was ever to be”—it reaches back in time to the years before World War I, when homosexuality was criminalized and necessarily secretive. The Folding Star, Hollinghurst’s next effort about a young Englishman teaching in Flanders who falls in love with his 17-year-old student, was described by the New York Review of Books as a “homosexual Lolita.” The Line of Beauty, which earned Hollinghurst the Booker Prize in 2004 and was faithfully adapted into a BBC miniseries, takes off at the point where the Swimming Pool Library ends, following a young Henry James scholar from the provinces lodging with the posh, London family of a Conservative MP elected in Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 landslide. Beautifully written and beguilingly told, its stand-out scene culminates at a party with our coked-up protagonist asking the Iron Lady for a spin on the dance floor.
How Alan Hollinghurst Helped Make ‘Gay Literature’ Mainstream
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